BIS sets sights on single global FX code of conduct

By Patrick Graham

LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has set up a working group aimed at creating a single global code of conduct for the foreign exchange market, the central banks’ central bank said on Monday.

The group will be headed by Reserve Bank of Australia Assistant Governor Guy Debelle, the co-author of recommendations drawn up last year for reforming “fixing” benchmarks after two years of scandal over their alleged manipulation.

Reuters reported last week that a number of senior central bank officials were for the first time optimistic about unifying the disparate codes of conduct used in different jurisdictions into one central document.

They say that the need to show the industry is taking action to prevent future abuses could override traditional divisions between the biggest banks and market centers such as Tokyo, London and New York in a market that has never been formally regulated.

James Kemp, Managing Director for Global FX at the Global Financial Markets Association (GFMA), welcomed the BIS move and said there is a very strong desire for coordinated alignment of regional codes.

“This is an opportunity for market participants to work with regulators and supervisors to demonstrate that they can put the right controls and guidance in place,” he said in a statement. “As demonstrated by various initiatives already under way, the GFMA’s FX Division is highly supportive of this initiative.”

The push for a single set of standards is likely to be shaped by Britain’s Fair and Effective Markets Review of conduct in currency and other markets, which is due to report in June and will need international backing to have any global impact.

All of that work, central to efforts to get past two years of scandal that many participants say has throttled activity and profits in one of the banking sector’s biggest cash cows, is happening as further fines are set to emerge.

People familiar with the matter have told Reuters that U.S. authorities are on course to reach multibillion-dollar agreements with five large banks over allegations of FX market rigging as soon as this week.

Barclays <BARC.L>, one of the top three players in the $5 trillion a day global currency market, is also likely to settle separate investigations by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission at the same time as it completes the Justice Department deal, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

RBS <RBS.L> and Barclays last month set aside a further $1.71 billion for investigations and litigation involving foreign exchange.

(Editing by David Goodman)

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